A United Voice survey carried out by correctional officers found that they believe overcrowding and understaffing is putting their safety at risk. Just 16% of those who took part believe that the current number of prisoners is manageable without creating a safety risk. While only 11% of those who completed the survey think there is always enough staff rostered on to ensure safe working conditions.
The survey on safety issues was conducted among prison officers at Queensland’s two private prisons, Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre and Southern Queensland Correctional Centre. Co-ordinator Michael Clifford said the results are very worrying and prove that overcrowding and staff safety are huge issues in Queensland’s private prisons. “We carried out this survey because we had received numerous reports of health and safety concerns at both facilities and we believe prison management are not taking these concerns seriously,” said Mr Clifford.
The survey revealed just 25% of participants believe management treat their safety with the priority it deserves. Only 23% believe management listen and act when safety concerns are raised with 25% of the opinion that their boss actually cares about the well-being of correctional officers. “One of the main outcomes of this survey is that officers have identified overcrowding and understaffing as the biggest issues in both prisons. Members believe these problems are creating an unsafe workplace and many fear for their safety,” said Mr Clifford.
“Overcrowding is an issue which our members have raised time and again. It really poses so many problems for officers as prisons are only built to cater for a certain number of inmates. When we have prisoners crammed into common areas, with less space and forced to eat their meals on stairs, it leads to a greater level of agitation. This agitation leads to prisoners lashing out at fellow inmates and officers by verbally and physically assaulting them.” Members also believe that overcrowding is one of the major contributing factors to the rise in the number of assaults in Queensland prisons. Since the start of the year, there were 658 reported assaults in Queensland prisons, 181 in January, 145 in February, 174 in March and 158 in April.